New veterinary innovations transforming pet care
For many households across the world pets are treated more like a family member than a companion animal.
It’s only natural that owners want them to live longer, more comfortable lives, which means they’re willing to go to greater lengths to keep their pets healthy.
Technological advances are helping veterinarians to answer this call, accessing specialty therapeutic products previously only reserved for people. We look at some of the veterinary tech trends that could soon be arriving in a practice near you.
Once considered a fun fad, pet wearables are now serious business. The global pet wearable market was valued at US$1bn in 2016 and is predicted to more than double to US$2.5bn by the end of 2024, as pet owners become more interested in the health data behind their pet.
The future of fitness trackers for our four-legged friends could be transformative for pet care. Wearables may have the ability to help detect health issues in pets earlier. These trackers could even be connected directly to the veterinary practice, giving veterinarians data-driven insight into their patients’ health, exposing any problems the animal isn’t able to communicate themselves. This builds a stronger connection between the veterinarian and the pet owner, while allowing veterinarians to treat any issues before they become too serious, helping to increase life expectancy and quality.
Human cancer treatment for pets
Cancer is estimated to affect one in four dogs. With such high prevalence, researchers are developing newer, more effective ways to treat this painful condition, and many advances are unlocking treatments that were once reserved just for humans.
Scientists recognize the emergence and development of treatment options, and responses to therapies for tumors in pets are very similar to that in humans. This has led to many data sharing projects between large animal health companies and oncology specialists, aiming to develop future cancer treatments.
This is also translating into innovative start-up treatment companies that aim to help veterinary oncologists decide a final treatment plan, based on the results of biopsy testing.
With such prevalence, cancer prevention and treatment is a top priority for both pet owners and animal health researchers. This is an area sure to grow significantly in the coming years.
Stem cell therapies
Although still in its early stages, stem cell technology, which helps to regenerate damaged tissue, is being explored to help companion animals. So far, the most successful applications of stem cell treatment in pets have been for osteoarthritis cases in dogs.
This has recently expanded to horses after a veterinary biotech start-up succeeded in developing the first stem cell based veterinary medicine approved for marketing authorization in Europe – a huge breakthrough for the technology.
The therapy is indicated for lameness in horses, and could pave the way for greater access to the treatment in other species.
The digitization of veterinary care has developed to the point where pet owners are now able to access veterinary services online without needing to visit the veterinary practice in person (or pet).
While veterinarians have been using telemedicine to chat to specialists remotely, the technology is growing with pet owners, helping connect them directly to online veterinary services on-demand.
A number of companies worldwide are capitalizing on digital technology to provide owners with more convenient and affordable pet health services. Owners can access a ‘virtual vet’, enabling them to video chat or instant message with a veterinarian with non-emergency issues through their smartphone. Concerned owners can also send pictures and videos to give the veterinarian more information about any health issues their pets might have.
This improved access to veterinary expertise catches health problems early and provides owners with a peace of mind that they can better care for their animal. As smartphone use continues to grow and technologies like 5G expand, telemedicine is only expected to expand even further.
Already, dog life expectancy has doubled in the last four decades and domestic cats now live twice as long as their feral friends. With new treatments and technologies, it could mean that as human life expectancy increases, our pets will still be there to keep us company.
Meet Shane Ryan, President of the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA), who tells us about changes to pet ownership in Asia.